In an effort to raise much needed awareness about the wetlands of Sri Lanka, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka (WNPS) took over 100 children and their parents on a guided tour through the Diyasaru-Wetland Park in Thalawathugoda on Sunday morning, 12 August 2018.
The kids were able to have a morning of fun and priceless learning.
The Wetland Walk, held for the third consecutive year by the WNPS, is an event geared especially towards kids between the ages of 4 -12. The kids and their parents were guided through the park by an experienced team from the Young Zoologists’ Association. They were given the opportunity to explore the flora and fauna of the wetlands while learning about the importance of wetlands to the Sri Lankan eco-system.
The walk began at 7.30 in the morning and the children were able to observe the park coming to life. Participants were encouraged to pre-register for the event as accommodation was limited.
Every registered participant was made a Junior Member of the WNPS for the year 2018.
Wetlands are essentially lands with water. Simply put, they are land areas with marshes, swamps and other minor water bodies. They are an important part of any eco-system and managing them right is vital to maintaining the balance of the eco-system overall. They are a source of food, freshwater and habitation. The Ramsar Convention, which Sri Lanka is a part of, identifies managing wetlands as a global challenge. Reclamation of forest area, clearing of vegetation, improper garbage disposal and chemical pollution have all threatened the wetlands in Sri Lanka, putting us at a risk of losing them altogether along with the many species who call the wetlands their home. Therefore it is not hard to see why enforcing the importance of conserving these wetlands is a dire need. This has been a key motivator behind the organisation of the ‘Wetland Walks.’
The Diyasaru Park is a haven of bio-diversity amidst the hubbub of the city, with over 60 acres of land dedicated for the sole purpose of conservation. It is home to over 40 species of butterflies, close to 80 species of birds and a plethora of other reptiles and mammals with some species being endemic to Sri Lanka. Not only does the park provide a place for stress-relief within the busy city, it is also of extreme significance as an important habitat for many wetland flora and fauna. The Park aims to provide a learning experience like no other, in a hands-on environment where people can experience and learn for themselves, the beauty and importance of conservation; all in the hopes that more and more Sri Lankans will be able to understand the significance of wetlands to our fragile eco-system, thus making it the perfect place to teach little ones about the significance of wetlands. By encouraging parents to take part in the event, the WNPS wants to ensure that the learning experience would not stop with the walk but rather continue at home as well.
The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka began in 1894 as a game protection society and has since evolved into an association for the protection of plant and wildlife in the island. Now working closely with the department of Wildlife Conservation, it fulfills its role, both as an advocate for environmental protection and as an educator.
This walk is just one of the efforts taken by the WNPS in keeping with their objective of ‘publicising the importance of wildlife and nature conservation in the country especially among school children.’ As of 2018, they have partnered with various schools and opened ‘Nature Clubs’ that promote environmental awareness within school children. The WNPS aims to empower and educate a generation that is in urgent need of environmental awareness and the ‘Wetland Walk 2018’ is yet another step in the right direction
By Vashni Benjamin